About This Artwork


Model of a River Boat, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11-12 (about 2046–1794 BC)

Wood and pigment
63.5 x 114.3 x 17.1 cm (25 x 45 x 6 3/4 in.)

Gift of Henry H. Getty, Charles L. Hutchinson, Robert H. Fleming, and Norman W. Harris, 1894.241

In the Middle Kingdom, tomb paintings and statues were often supplemented with wooden models. This boat is fully equipped with a crew, oars, and a mast. It was thought that the model could provide the soul of the deceased not only with routine transportation, but also with the ability to make the pilgrimage to the sacred city of Abydos in southern Egypt, the cult center of the god Osiris.

—Permanent collection label

The Nile River provided Egypt’s main means of transportation as well as water for irrigation. This model of a boat would have been placed in a tomb to give the deceased the ability to trade and travel in the afterlife. The primary function of these models, however, was to enable the deceased to make a voyage to the sacred city of Abydos. Situated on the Nile, the city was a place of pilgrimage, where Osiris, god of the underworld, was believed to be buried.

— Exhibition label, When the Greeks Ruled: Egypt After Alexander the Great, October 31, 2013–July 27, 2014, Gallery 154.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 154A, April 20, 1994-February 6, 2012.

The Art Institute of Chicago, When the Greeks Ruled: Egypt After Alexander the Great, October 31, 2013 - July 27, 2014.

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Beyond the Nile: Egypt and the Classical World, March 27, 2018-September 9, 2018.

Publication History

Karen B. Alexander, "From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago," in Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, by Karen Manchester (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2012), p. 24, fig. 8.

Art Institute of Chicago, “A Committee of Two,” in “The Prime Mover”: Charles L. Hutchinson and the Making of the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Studies 36, 1 (2010), p. 64, fig. 21.

Ann Marie Merriman, “Egyptian Watercraft Models from the Predynastic to Third Intermediate Periods” (Ph.D. diss., University College London, 2010), pp. 592-93 (ill.), no. 493.

Art Institute of Chicago, “CLEOPATRA; THE ANCIENT WORLD,” Computer Program (Art Institute of Chicago, 1997).

Thomas George Allen, A Handbook of the Egyptian Collection (Art Institute of Chicago/University of Chicago Press, 1923), pp. 49 (ill.), 50.

View mobile website